Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Hobart - Tony Abbott’s cuts to Family Tax Benefit payments; Housing affordability;





SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s cuts to Family Tax Benefit payments; Housing affordability; Joe Hockey’s out of touch comments; Tony Abbott’s royal commission; Killing Season documentary; Education.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart with Julie Collins, our senior representative for the Tasmanian Federal Labor Party, and Brian Mitchell, Labor’s new candidate for Lyons. Today we see what a bright future Australian research has, what Tasmania has as the gateway to Antarctica and world class research, helping us decode the history of the planet and making sure that we can make the best decisions for the future generations based upon the best science anywhere in the world. Labor’s very committed to lifting the commitment of Australia to science and research. We’re fundamentally committed to the bright future of Tasmania as being a gateway to the icy continent to the south. And we see that only Labor can give Australia the scientific and research footing we need to be a world leader when it comes to developing and understanding Antarctica. So today I thank IMAS for hosting us and Labor commits again to put science and research at the centre of the next national election. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: Bill how far is Labor willing to go in compromising on key Budget measures, savings measures, such as the pensions means test and the Family Tax Benefit changes?


SHORTEN: The Labor Party has a consistent framework; we believe fundamentally in a competitive and productive economy, we believe fundamentally in making sure Australia is open to the rest of the world. We want to make sure we have a strong social justice safety net underpinning all of the decisions that get made. Put simply, Labor believes in fairness and growth. So that is how we will judge and how we will be judged in terms of the Budget. Now Labor opposed bitterly last year’s unfair Budget and again we oppose much of the unfairness in this year’s Budget. When it comes to looking at each measure, we’ll weigh them on the merits using the framework which I said – what’s fair and what promotes growth. Now we think there’s plenty of hidden nasties, there’s $2 billion of cuts to aged care and health care in the Budget, there’s inexplicable cuts for instance to dental care for veterans and children’s programs. We will keep working through the issues in the best interests of Australia and Australian jobs.


JOURNALIST: But what about those two specific measures the pensions means test and the Family Tax Benefit changes, what about those two ones, can you be more specific?


SHORTEN: Well we’re still working through the pension changes, and we will keep working through and understanding what’s being proposed and making sure that pensioners in particular, part pensioners who are receiving very modest incomes don’t get ambushed by this unfair government. When it comes to Family Tax Benefit payments, Labor has made it very clear that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are out of touch by cutting the incomes of people who earn $65,000 a year –cutting their payments, Family Tax Benefit amounts, and other amounts by up to $6000 a year. That’s right, families with an income of $65,000 on this Budget are facing cuts of up to $6000. Labor won’t be party to mugging average Australians who are working very hard to make ends meet.


JOURNALIST: You said Joe Hockey’s out of touch, what would you do to fix the housing crisis in Sydney and around Australia?


SHORTEN: You’re right, Joe Hockey is out of touch. What we say is that every time Joe Hockey opens his mouth, we get an explanation of how out of touch the whole Government is. Joe Hockey's comments were a brain snap where he is basically saying and goading people, where he says to people on average incomes, teachers, nurses, paramedics, that somehow it’s people’s fault if they can't afford a house in Sydney. Joe Hockey needs to stop being out of touch but even more importantly, Joe Hockey’s comments are a test for Tony Abbott. See every time Joe Hockey says something stupid, it seems that Tony Abbott agrees with his out of touch comments. There’s a test here today for Tony Abbott; is he on the side of Australian families or is he on the side of Joe Hockey? Because you can't be both.


JOURNALIST: But what would you do specifically?


SHORTEN: In terms of what Joe Hockey should say, Joe Hockey’s a serial offender. We all famously remember when he infamously said that poor people don't drive. Now he has decided to repeat that particular bit of Joe Hockey magic by now saying that somehow it is peoples' fault if they don't have a good job, somehow they should understand they can't be in the market for a house in Australia. I think it’s not even a matter for Joe Hockey apologising, he is what he is, he’s out of touch. The test now is does Tony Abbott agree with Joe Hockey or does he agree with the outrage of Australian families who legitimately want to enter the housing market or indeed want to see their kids be able to afford to have a house in the future.


JOURNALIST:  But what’s the solution? From your perspective, what would your solution be to this crisis then?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, it’s Labor who has been putting this issue on the agenda. We saw the chief economic advisor of the Government in Senate Estimates last week talk about a housing bubble in Sydney and when Labor simply questioned the Government, did they agree with their chief economic advisor - the Government turned all its attack dogs on Labor for daring to draw attention to what the chief economic advisor to the Government said. Clearly some of the issues are based around supply, some of them are state issues, but there’s also a role here for the Federal Government to show leadership. The problem for anyone wanting to enter the housing market in Australia is that after you heard what Joe Hockey said yesterday, you realise that the Abbott Government is incapable of understanding the needs of ordinary Australians who want to see their kids enter the housing market.


JOURNALIST: On an issue closer to home Bill, why won't you distance yourself from Cesar Melhem?


SHORTEN: I have made it very clear that it doesn't matter who you are, if you engage in corruption in the work place, employer or union rep, you should feel the full force of the law. That is our view, that is what Labor has been stating that all along and it is my absolute personal conviction.

Do you condemn Cesar Melhem in particular?

I’m not going to give a running commentary on the royal commission and the various pieces of evidence which are presented. What I can say really clearly again, and I believe it fundamentally and it is something I practice my whole working life; is there is no time for anyone, be they employer rep, employer or union rep, taking advantage of people and engaging in corrupt behaviour.

Mr Shorten, what is Labor’s plan for housing affordability?

We are working on our plan. We released a discussion paper earlier this year at the end of March. Labor understands there is a number of moving parts in terms of housing affordability in this nation. Part of it is to do with the supply of land and the availability of new housing construction. We have also said you need to have a discussion on some of  the demand-side issues. What is clear today is that the Treasurer of Australia yesterday showed how amazingly out of touch the Abbott Government is by declaring if you wanted to ever enter the housing market in Sydney, you simply had to have a good job. The problem with Joe Hockey is he doesn't get it. There are a lot of people out there working hard to make ends meet – teachers, child care workers, disability support workers, police people, paramedics. These are the people Australia needs and what Joe Hockey has done is he has slammed the door on the dream of housing affordability. Joe Hockey has said it is not Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott’s problem; it is the problem of Australian families. Joe Hockey is wrong. What Tony Abbott has to do today is show some leadership. Either he is tied at the hip to Joe Hockey and he agrees with Joe Hockey's out of touch comments or Tony Abbott will actually correct and rebuke his Treasurer, show leadership and show that Tony Abbott understands what is really happening for a lot of Australian families.

Dick Smith was on the radio saying he would scrap negative gearing, would Labor do the same?

We have said all matters need to be on the table for discussion. It is not in our focus or on our radar right now to scrap negative gearing, let’s be clear about that. What we are saying is that you need to at least have the conversation on what is driving housing affordability and housing prices in Australia. We certainly understand some of the debates around foreign investors and Labor hasn't stood in the way of the Government with some of the measures they're doing there. Joe Hockey is simply encouraging people to dob in their neighbours and we see 200 property transactions investigated. That isn’t going to solve the issues for Australia and the Government shouldn't treat Australia as mugs and say that is the only issue. There is a big challenge around the supply side, there is a big job to talk to COAG and the States about what their stamp duty regime does to housing affordability. There is a job to look at supply and planning laws but one thing I know, whilst Joe Hockey is Treasurer and Tony Abbott is Prime Minister, housing affordability for many Australians is in the too hard basket under the Abbott Government.

Were there any sweet heart deals or phantom memberships during your time as secretary of the AWU?

I am really pleased to repeat again what I said before, In my time working as a union official, I have always put the interests of my members first every time – every time. We don't have any truck for corruption in the workplace, be it employer or union. The royal commission is underway, Tony Abbott's Royal Commission into the unions. We have also made it very clear we won't give a running commentary on each piece of evidence which is issued. But let me be really  clear, Mathew and you’ve covered IR in the past and you have known me for a long while, I have no time for any workplace corruption whoever is guilty or found to be doing it, full stop.

So you can say there were no sweet heart deals when you were leading the AWU?

I can refer to my 20 years representing people, be it in the union or in parliament, I have no truck for any form of corruption, nor will I tolerate it with anyone else, be they employers or union reps.

You refused to be on the Killing Season documentary. Are you frustrated that it is still playing the Labor Party and are you able to reveal finally what your role was in deposing two leaders?

The whole thing is not exactly anything other than history. There has been a lot of books written about it. There has been coverage on it. What I am pleased to say to Australians is that the internal disunity of the Labor Party is over. It has been over now for the best part of two years. The Labor Party I lead is united. What has been interesting in the week of the historical documentary about the Labor Party is the current civil war underway in the Liberal Party. A lot of Australians were amazed by Amanda Vanstone, former senior Liberal minister, attacking Tony Abbott for the sloppy way he is running the Government. We all know Malcolm Turnbull is muttering behind his breath about the way the Government is being run. We know that Christopher Pyne has been critical of Julie Bishop. What we see the Abbott Government has many divisions and a Government who can’t govern themselves can't govern the nation. Last question.


JOURNALIST: Will Labor support the final two years of the Gonski funding?

Labor has funding always been better on the funding of schools in Australia, always have been, always is and always will be. Thanks everyone. Speak to you later.